Agave nectar (also called agave syrup) is a sweetener commercially produced from several species of agave, including Agave tequilana (blue agave) and Agave salmiana. Agave nectar is sweeter than honey and tends to be thinner and flow more freely than it. Most agave nectar comes from Mexico and South Africa.
To produce agave nectar from the Agave americana and A. tequiliana plants, the leaves are cut off the plant after it has aged seven to fourteen years. The juice is then extracted from the core of the agave, called the piña. The juice is filtered, then heated to separate the complex components (the polysaccharides) into simple sugars. The main polysaccharide is called inulin or fructosan and is mostly fructose. This filtered juice is then concentrated to a syrupy liquid, slightly thinner than honey. Its color varies from light- to dark-amber, depending on the degree of processing.
Agave salmiana is processed differently than Agave tequiliana. As the plant develops, it starts to grow a stalk called a quiote. The stalk is cut off before it fully grows, creating a hole in the center of the plant that fills with a liquid called aguamiel. The liquid is collected daily. The complex components of this liquid are broken down into fructose and dextrose.
An alternative method used to process the agave juice without heat is described in a United States patent for a process that uses enzymes derived from the mold Aspergillus niger to break down the polyfructose extract into fructose. A. niger fermentation is "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Agave nectar consists primarily of fructose and glucose. One source gives 92% fructose and 8% glucose; another gives 56% fructose and 20% glucose. These differences probably reflect variation from one vendor of agave nectar to another.
The impact of agave nectar on blood sugar (as measured by its glycemic index and glycemic load) is comparable to fructose, which has a much lower glycemic index and glycemic load than table sugar (sucrose). However, consumption of large amounts of fructose can be deleterious and can trigger fructose malabsorption, metabolic syndrome, hypertriglyceridemia, decreased glucose tolerance, hyperinsulinemia, and accelerated uric acid formation.
Culinary use 
Agave nectar is 1.4 to 1.6 times sweeter than sugar and is often substituted for sugar or honey in recipes. In cooking, it is commonly used as a Vegan alternative to honey for those who choose to exclude animal products from their diets. Agave nectar dissolves quickly and so it can be used as a sweetener for cold beverages such as iced tea. It is added to some breakfast cereals as a binding agent.
Agave nectars are sold in light, amber, dark, and raw varieties. Light agave nectar has a mild, almost neutral flavor, and is therefore sometimes used in delicate-tasting dishes and beverages. Amber agave nectar has a medium-intensity caramel flavor and is therefore used in dishes and drinks with stronger flavors. Dark agave nectar has stronger caramel notes and imparts a distinct flavor to dishes, such as some desserts, poultry, meat, and seafood dishes. Both amber and dark agave nectar are sometimes used "straight out of the bottle" as a topping for pancakes, waffles, and French toast. The dark version is unfiltered and therefore contains a higher concentration of the agave plant's minerals. Raw agave nectar also has a mild, neutral taste. It is produced at temperatures below 118 °F (48 °C) to protect the natural enzymes, so this variety is an appropriate sweetener for raw foodists.
See also 
- Hocman, Karen (August 2009). "Agave Nectar a.k.a. Agave Syrup". The Nibble.
- Gary M. Mohr, Jr. (3-Oct-99). "Blue Agave and Its Importance in the Tequila Industry". Ethnobotanical Leaflets. Retrieved 2010-01-04.
- "Monocarpic Behavior in Agaves". J. C. Raulston Arboretum, North Carolina State University. June 19, 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-04.
- "Method of producing fructose syrup from agave plants (United States Patent 5846333)". 1998-12-08.
- "Inventory of GRAS Notices: Summary of all GRAS Notices". US FDA/CFSAN. 2008-10-22. Archived from the original on 11 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-31.
- Ronald C. Deis (February 2001). "Sweetners for Health Foods". Food Product Design. Retrieved 2 November 2010.
- Ralf Patzold and Hans Bruckner (2005). "Mass Spectrometric Detection and Formation of D-Amino Acids in Processed Plant Saps, Syrups, and Fruit Juice Concentrates". J. Agric. Food Chem 53 (25): 9722–9729. doi:10.1021/jf051433u. Retrieved 2 November 2010.
- "Agave Nectar and the Glycemic Index". All About Agave. Archived from the original on 17 September 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
- "Agave Nectar vs. Liquid Sugars". All About Agave. Archived from the original on 17 September 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
- "Agave Nectar vs. Granular Sugars". All About Agave. Archived from the original on 17 September 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
- David Mendosa. Revised International Table of Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL) Values—2002. Archived from the original on 10 November 2010. Retrieved 2 November 2010.
- Basciano H, Federico L, Adeli K (2005). "Fructose, insulin resistance, and metabolic dyslipidemia". Nutrition & Metabolism 2 (5). doi:10.1186/1743-7075-2-5. PMC 552336. PMID 15723702.
- Mayes, PA (Nov 1993). "Intermediary metabolism of fructose". Am J Clin Nutr. 58 (5 Suppl): 754S–765S. PMID 8213607.
- Buemann B, Toubro S, Holst JJ, Rehfeld JF, Bibby BM, Astrup A (Aug 2000). "D-tagatose, a stereoisomer of D-fructose, increases blood uric acid concentration". Metabolism 49 (8): 969–76. doi:10.1053/meta.2000.7724. PMID 8213607.
- Davis, W (Saturday, December 06, 2008). "Yet another reason to avoid fructose". The Heart Scan Blog. Archived from the original on 10 October 2010. Retrieved 2 November 2010.
- Johannes, Laura (October 27, 2009). "Looking at Health Claims of Agave Nectar". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 2 January 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-04.
- "Vegan Sugar Substitutes". LiveStrong.com. Archived from the original on 13 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
- Chomka, Stefan (30 July 2007). "Dorset Cereals". The Grocer (Crawley, England: William Reed Business Media). Retrieved 16 January 2011.
- Getty, Anna (2010). Anna Getty's Easy Green Organic. Dan Goldberg and Ron Hamad, photographs. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. p. 141. ISBN 0-8118-6668-8. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
- Ania Catalano. Baking With Agave Nectar: Over 100 Recipes Using Nature's Ultimate Sweetener, 2008, Celestial Arts, p. ix.
Further reading 
- Mancilla-Margalli, Norma A.; Mercedes G. López (13 February 2002). "Generation of Maillard Compounds from Inulin During the Thermal Processing of Agave tequilana Weber Var. azul". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 50 (4): 806–812. doi:10.1021/jf0110295. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
- "Formal Agave Health Benefits". Retrieved 4 April 2012.